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Lecturers With 10 Years Of Experience Are Being Asked To Begin From Zero Year In J&K

What Happened to the Career Advancement of J&K College Contractual Lecturers?

The J&K Higher Education Department has routinely appointed around 2,300 candidates as Lecturers/Teaching Assistants to impart education in the Government Degree Colleges of J&K. Appointed through the proper procedure, this mechanism has been in force for decades in J&K Higher Education Department.

However, the nomenclature changed at the discretion of arbitrary decisions and orders of academic bosses at the helm of affairs. This teaching staff, now termed as Academic Arrangement Lecturers and Teaching Assistants, used to be earlier designated as ad-hoc appointees and later, Contractual lecturers, on a stable fixed tenure and subsequently regularised after completing the tenure. In 2010, an Act was passed to continue the contractual employees who had completed seven years in any department. The status and nomenclature of the lecturers were changed to Academic Arrangement deliberately to deny the same rights to them.

Although the nomenclature was changed many times, the denomination remained the same. The Lecturers and Teaching Assistants have been working in addition to the permanent faculty and discharging the duties of teaching, conducting and invigilating exams, managing colleges etc. Interestingly, these lecturers are also graduated from the same higher education system through which permanent faculties have pursued their education.

j&k education news - empty college classroom with chairs and table and blackboard

One fails to understand why the permanent faculty is making the issue about Academic Arrangement teaching staff versus them. On one side, the requirement of eligibilities and qualifications have changed over a period of time, on another side, unfortunately, the right of career advancement was snatched from these lecturers. The changing nomenclature was not pursued for anything good but to keep these exploited teaching staff at bay and away from demanding the right to CAS (Career Advancement Scheme) and professional advantages.

Being a young nation and evolving society, it is obvious that we will have to face several predicaments as long as different classes and sections of society are empowered. Therefore, we need to address these predicaments with an open mind and common sense through democratic maxims of reciprocity, reconciliation and mediation to fulfil the requirement of utilitarianism and meet principles of moral justice. The arbitrariness in decision-making and policy formulation in the absence of a broad-based consensus brought this teaching faculty into the situation reeled down by the code of brutal justice.

In a conflict-ridden society, the socio-political arrangements should be revisited every now and then to rectify injustices in society rather than stick to orthodoxy and undue biases. The fate of hundreds and thousands of neo-middle class people is decided over dinner in the kitchen-lobbies of power-wielding families, rather than principally taking aggrieved and affected people on board. Merit and competition should have been working on democratic maxims and opening up equal opportunities for all to showcase their contributions to advance in career and progress in life.

Unfortunately, the orthodoxy of rules and institutions pursuing brutal justice while preserving status quo privileges for power wielders and done injustices to new generation neo-middle class. In the code of brutal justice, the working experiences and contributions of Lecturers/Teaching Assistants are wasted and remain unacknowledged to leave them deprived and professionally disadvantaged. The set-up of rules and regulations governing the services of lecturers reminds one about indentured servitude.

This indentured servitude was practised by colonial masters and feudal lords. An unequal bond or agreement was signed by compulsion under norms of inflicted scarcity and insufficiency to legally deny them any legitimate life of dignity and professional advantages. Lecturers having meagre remuneration, no professional stability, no dignity and professional advantage still could make the best contribution to teaching, academics and research of this nation. They have served at far-flung areas of Gurez, Doda, Kishtwar etc. and still not given any induction programme, refresher programme or any training workshop.

The author has personally requested the coordinators of a faculty development programme at IIPA to organise training workshops for these abandoned faculties. The author has also personally requested the academic bosses in Kashmir for conducting training programmes for contractual lecturers, but in return, received a sarcastic laugh without any reasonable explanation. If a lecturer goes for any workshop or conference voluntarily, they are not allowed and their salary is deducted or leave is rejected.

 

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The worth of a lecturer has been reduced to a bonded indentured slave. Bearing with such a professional disadvantage, under such disgraced and demoralised conditions, the lecturers are squeezed of all enthusiasm and energy over a period of time. In spite of recognising their contribution, they are rather degraded and looked down on as deadwood, an act of covering up the unjust and undemocratic mechanism they are treated with.

But dear academic bosses, the matter of fact is that these Lecturers/Teaching Assistants are not deadwood; you have been stealing the life of this unlucky lot. Every time a new batch of highly qualified, energetic and enthusiastic youth are lured to this exploitative system, they are unaware of the reality of this disgraceful and disdainful professional, but later meet the same treatment and realise the fate of teachers in the State.

Lecturer positions, which are virtually temporary positions by nature, have been in existence for the last 30 years in reality and are required unavoidably in higher education future as well. Yet, lecturers are victims of use-and-throw policy. Every effort is made to deny them professional advantages. For the same purpose, recently, the indiscriminate policy in 2020 notified to reduce the status of lecturers to Guest Faculty and need-based staff under Guidelines 58 of JK-HED. This is a further demoralisation and deprivation of their legitimate basic rights.

teacher

 

Why is it easy to demoralise and deprive teachers? One asks a question to oneself. The comprehensive understanding for the same lies in rather another question: who are these contractual lecturers? Although they are the brainchildren of these professors conceived in the higher education system, the treatment is meted out with us as if they are nonexistent.

Contractual lecturers belong to the ‘neo-middle class’ and are first-generation educated from these families. It is a rising new inspirational class with its values and expectations. Suppressing the same is deprivation and demoralisation against the successive generations of this neo-middle class. The sheer denial of equal citizenry rights against them in a conflict-ridden society will create serious consequences for nation and state while power elite’s lineages are raising fortunes out of set rules, regulations and institutions.

Over the last couple of decades, the rural poor class of society, through harsh struggles, pursued training and education in multiple fields. Thus, they became eligible for different jobs and professions. They are excelling and doing well in different fields. However, when it comes to public service positions, the statuesque or change of rules and regulations is tampered with to perpetuate the grip and hold of the upper class over these positions. As long as education was privileged to upper-class families, the ad-hoc and contractual faculties have ensured the regularisation after completing a fixed tenure.

The neo-middle class is lacking any access and means to influence political power and its decision-making. The rules of the game are in hands of the traditional upper class. This might be the reason that rules are arbitrarily tampered with to deprive lecturers of their legitimate claims. Orthodox reasons and self-aggrandising tactics are at work to deny and deprive them of their rights. Here comes the role of PSC and other set guidelines.

The role of the said institution and rules is to advance the career and scrutinise the quality of faculties. Therefore, career advancement should have been the opportunity given to lecturers on basis of their quality and performance appraisal to stand on the requirement of utilitarianism and principles of moral justices. Unfortunately, the above-mentioned institution became an excuse and put as a building block against the recognition of our contributions and our several years of academic and teaching experiences in the higher education system. I believe that the academic culture in our higher education is merit-oriented where the lecturers are trained enough to meet the requisite qualities of higher education teachers.

 

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A lecturer who has spent 5-10-15 years in the higher education system is asked to restart their career from zero years to be regularised as a professor. This is what you are stealing from our life. The merit has become just another form of discrimination and exclusion in the given class and caste hierarchy, where the power-yielding classes are purveyors of privileged lineage. The normalisation of rhetoric through abuse of law and power only built the discourse of governemental-isation of civic and political life. It is a situation where state and citizens are polarised apart from each other, evolving in two separate spheres.

This govermental-isation is leveraging the families and progeny of power elites at the cost of fractured relations between common citizens and state or nation. The sacred thread of merit works and treats two differently. In favour of power wielders, evaluate and examine till one gets successful. In the case of poor lecturers and neo-middle class, evaluate and examine over the years till one gets failed.

The opportunity-of-bliss for children born with a silver spoon and opportunity-of-bane for children without patronage!

Postgraduates and researchers are screened and scrutinised in entrance and national-level tests. They are evaluated and trained while pursuing their research degrees in universities such as IITs. After completing the regressive academics, they get into teaching. After completing the prudential academic course, one should not be locked in for PSC, which is taking decades to advertise the posts.

Rather, periodical scrutiny and performance appraisal to let the lecturers will also showcase their skills and contribution for professional advantage. The practice of throwing experienced lecturers out of the system is a waste of time, talent, resources and capital. The above understanding has touched all the dignitaries and professors at the helm of affairs. Several efforts and humble attempts were made towards framing a policy for streamlining the contractual lecturer. However, any humble attempt is bound to fail when approval is needed from authorities whose own progeny is shareholders in the same society.

It is pertinent to mention here that humble efforts have been made recently in August 2019. The J&K Department of Higher Education set up a committee headed by Professor (Dr) Irshad Wani Sahib. The committee was assigned to frame policy recommendations for streamlining the contractual lecturers. The committee recommended that continuing the eligible candidates as lecturers and experienced non-eligible faculties as demonstrators with a qualification advancement option to be raised to the lecturer positions. The demonstrators are experienced faculty well-acquainted with the academic work-culture of colleges and could be helpful in multi-tasking activities rather than hiring inexperienced from outside.

The committee further suggested to the government that higher education is required to hire the services of contractual faculties every year. They are an important resource in carrying out the academic work of the department. Whether the Higher Education Department will hire them as academic arrangements or guest lecturers, the fact of the matter is that their services are required in future as well. Therefore, the utility of services should also consider moral justice in their favour.

 

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The above policy is already prevalent in medical colleges (SRO 124) and recently, the West Bengal Government, along with many other states, also framed a similar policy for its disadvantaged guest faculty. The nature of services, set of regulations and organisational relations have brought the 2,300 candidates, almost half of the number of faculties in colleges, into occupational locked-in positions and organisational stress (Deepa Gosh in International Research Journal of Social Science, Dec., 2010, p.49-59).

Talking about the same in their research ‘Occupational Locking-In And Organizational Stress Among The Part Time Contract Teachers Working In Various Degree Colleges Of Tripura’ the author has discussed with Professors and Assistant Professors of 12 colleges in Kashmir, whose responses highlighted the issues of organisation stress, affecting work culture badly, problems the students face and vulnerabilities and rights of Lecturers.

Changing of nomenclatures time and again and sub-human treatment only demonstrate that the lobbies in governmental organisations are on pounce to deprive the neo-middle class educated generations of what they deserve legitimately. A person who spends their prime youth pursuing degrees, teaching and research is hired and fired at the wish and will of the administration when they reach their middle-age crisis. It is the moment when they don’t know another skill or training. They are thrown out as if they have completed the bonded indentured servitude. No social security, no farewell, no dignity but under sheer disgrace and only personal, psychological and social vulnerability. The contractual faculties are not borrowed slaves, they are qualified and certified from the higher education system.

In history, one witnesses the conflicts and battles fought to ameliorate such injustices and discrimination. . In the recent past, Shiekh Abdullah sahab started his battle against Dogra Raj to ameliorate the injustices meted out to the masses. The rules of the game were changed when Shiekh sahab obtained MSC and aspired for the job, the rules were tampered with to devalue the worth of Shiekh sahab and his MSC.

However, in a democratic political system, the enlightened citizenry supplies the demands and feedback to political systems for rectifying the ill will amicably. When the same approach was pursued by the lecturers many times, they were only disappointed in the past several years. The final jolt came in 2010 when we were singled out from the benefits of professional advantages. The lecturers approached the court as any decent citizen would do. The court orders the status quo till the final disposal of our case is decided on professional advantages, just like any other contractual or daily wager is getting in other departments.

The court’s disposal is still pending but the self-aggrandisement of bureaucracy has decided the verdict after they made a verbal consensus among themselves for stopping our salaries and belittling our contribution, experiences and degrees. The ‘farmans’ or decrees are passed as if they are the last Mughals left to prevent their throne from falling into the hands of people. It should be clear for new scholars aspiring for teaching in higher education that the status quo has not stalled or halted the Assistant Professor recruitment.

Rather, the fact is that 2,300 vacancies are always going to remain contractual only. The recruitment is made only for vacant positions available against the strength of professor positions rationalised after their retirement. The recruitment for 2,300 Lecturers as Assistant Professors is impossible, given the cost of salaries incurred on these posts.

Hence, within the given resources, the higher education department should streamline the contractual faculty’s positions for sustainable academics and professional stability. The consolidated workload in higher education is more than enough to absorb the lecturers. Opening new colleges in J&K signifies and substantiates this argument. The Department of Higher Education should also plead for budgetary grants from the government to pay the remuneration.

 

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Quality education and academics need quality investment. Being a part of the higher education system and academic fraternity, it is recommended to follow the suit of the West Bengal government, where common sense prevails in policymaking. Guest faculties are offered a reliable tenure of service till the age of 65, along with a monthly basic salary. They have also fixed an amount of Rs 5 lakh to be paid to them at the time of retirement.

The management quota faculties in Orissa, contractual faculty in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are also offered professional advantages. Being a part of this republic, believing in the preamble of our Constitution, the rules must conform to the principles of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Therefore, the J&K Government and Ministry of Education of India should consider our professional advantage and career advancement. Picking thread from West Bengal policy framework and reconsidering the policy recommendations submitted by the committee under Prof Irshad Wani Sahib, it is requested to the Government of J&K and the administrative Tribunal and Ministry of Education to make joint efforts and appoint a committee to devise policy based on above-mentioned frameworks for Contractual Lecturers.

Thank you in anticipation.

About the author: Dr Muzammil Ahad is a Lecturer in the Department of Higher Education at Jammu and Kashmir. They can be reached at
urmuzamil12@gmail.com.

Note: The article was originally published by the author here

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